...our career site. I know this is one of the biggest hassles for the active job seeker. Sometimes it seems so complicated that you are looking for the quick out ("can't I just send you my resume...do I have to do all this?"). Because us recruiting folk know the back-end and how the selections you make on the jobs search page can impact the results returned, I guess I can offer a little help. Plus most of us, if not search gurus, are power users of search so let me help out a little here with some tips. These tips are about our site, but I suspect that some of the things I am going tell you apply to many, if not most, corporate websites.

Can't I just submit a resume?

Oftentimes, you can submit off the main jobs page without serching jobs. But you may have to look for that option. Windows users, control+F and enter "submit" or "apply" to find this link. But before you do that, decide if you might want to tweak your resume with company specific verbiage first. Also depends on how much time you want to spend looking at each company and how high the company is on your wish list. For your top few companies, I'd invest the time on the career site (and off by the way) doing some research before submitting (incidentally, I encourage this for people applying to Microsoft via other channels...there's alot ot be learned from the career site). Also, if you are going to cut and paste your resume, paste it into a notepad (.txt) file first to remove the formatting...this gives you some control over how it looks in it's inevitable format. Otherwise, it gets converted to .txt anyway. Better for you to see how it looks in that format first before sending it, don't ya think?

Pull-down menus

They're everywhere. You don't have to use them all. For the ones that you are going to use, I would recommend scrolling through the whole list to see what else is there. For example, if you scrolled down to Product Manager (under title), you might not think to continue down to Technical Product Manager, but it's there. Whatever the menu, see if multi-selection is an option. But don't feel like you have to use a menu if it doesn't make sense. I like to do a broad initial search and then look at my search results to gather info to narrow the search. For people who aren't as familiar with titling and categories at a specific company, I think this is the way to go.

Titles

Speaking of titles, what the deal with them anyway? They aren't the greatest search criteria. Microsoft's Marketing Manager might be a Product Marketing Manager elsewhere. Even within the company, a Product Manager for one team could have very similar responsibilities to a Marketing Manager in another. Titles are standardized here but there will always be roles that straddle the line.  I wouldn't start with title as a search criteria. You can use it later to narrow down if you need to (once you get some initial search results).

Job Categories

I think this menu is meant to go broader than title, but I think about it similarly. Try to search without it, if you need it, scroll the whole list and try multi-selecting. Again, there are fine lines. Someone who manages relationships and marketing strategy with an ISV could be "Channel Marketing" or "Business Development". What you think of as product management, might be considered program management here. Again, go broad, collect info from your search results, then narrow.

Location

It is what it is.  If you are open to relocation, leave it blank. If you do use it, notice for example, there are listings for Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Francisco. Scroll the whole list if you need to select something, then decide. If you know something about the company, you can use this to focus in on a division if you want. For example, if you wanted to work on the Passport team, searching Mountain View might help. Of course, I encourage you to search WA-Redmond.

Product

You have a couple options here. First, if your dream job is in a particular product space, you can search it. Doesn't fit my recommendation around starting broad and then narrowing, but I realize that some people are looking for that one dream job (keep in mind, there could be jobs that you don't even know exist...never dared to dream of...OK, I'm being dorky but you get my point...who knew there was a thing called "Technical Evangelist" until there was). You could use this menu  if you have technical experience (or tech marketing experience, or product management experience) in a certain domain and (important part:) only want to work in that space. Here again, scroll through the whole list because there could be some cross over or our naming convention could surprise you. Also consider that many jobs don't align with a product (mine for example, unless you consider happy employees, recruiters and hiring managers a product). Many marketing roles are aligned with a market segment but not a product. So go broad if you can bear it.

Keywords

The Rosetta Stone of the career site. This field is your friend and can often cause frustration (or a challenge) as you search for the "just right" words. Use Boolean logic to select 'this OR this, but NOT that' (trust me, it's an art not a science).  I wouldn't use titles as keywords (it will just get you the same thing as using title as a search criteria or you may pick up jobs that describe working with someone with that title, which isn't very helpful). Also, think about how things could be explained or abbreviated; PR versus public relations (which is a tough one anyway, you'll have to use other PR related keywords to get the right results). For example, if you are an Accountant, you might try: ("GL" OR "ledger") AND (reconcil* OR "balance sheet"). If you only use "Accountant", you won't get "Accounting Manager", "Accounting Analyst", etc. Here's how I like to think about keywords: they are clues that get you to the result, they don't define the result. It's directions to someone's house with a description of the exterior, not their street address. Get it?

What to do with your results

Now you've gotten back a list of jobs. If you look through the first few and they seem like the right ones, that's great. If you want to go back and tweak your search, there are a few things that I would do. First, look at any jobs that ARE a fit. Review the title, job category, etc. Also browse the descriptions and make note of any keywords (do this...it works...use the words in the job descriptions as keywords to find more similar roles). If you feel like you want to narrow your search results, you can use these common elements to find more of the same. On the flip side of that, if you are looking at the jobs you don't want, you'll find which of your search criteria need tweaking...maybe you need to not use one of the pull-downs or select a different value. Maybe your use of the word "program" pulled up a bunch of programmer roles and you want program management. This second method requires more experimentation because you are making assumptions based on what you don't want versus describing what you do.

How do I communicate with recruiters about the job then?

Let's say that you are e-mailing a recruiter about a specific position you found on the career site. Easiest and fastest way to get the recruiter to the specific opening is to provide the job code; which on our site is a six digit number in the upper right corner. Because these codes are unique, the recruiter will be able to find the exact opening to which you refer (take that grammar police). Also, if you have ongoing communications with a recruiter about jobs, I encourage you to always include your resume in the communication. Think about it: a recruiter may have hundreds or thousands of resumes on their hard drive (or even inbox) and you likely just have one (yours). Also, it makes that mail immediately forward-able (this is a good thing), with a resume in a pretty document versus the text version stored in our database.

Why broad then narrow?

I know there are people that start with a very narrow search first and then broaden it. The reason that I don't do it that way is that it doesn't give you much info to decide how to broaden your search. Let's say you filled in the drop downs, added some keywords and got nada. How do you know what to tweak to get better results? Whereas, if you do a broad search, you can look at the results you get and use the category, title, product listings to eliminate what you don't want or focus in on what you do. I always go for the informed approach ; )

Hopefully, I've made career site job searching easier for you. Sometimes you just have to try stuff, see how it works and then go back and make changes. The mistake many people make is trying to use too many or too few search criteria and not knowing how to find that middle place that gets them what they are looking for. Of course, all of my advice above is generic. I'm sure there are highly specialized roles where you *could* search by title and get them, I just wouldn't assume that it's the role you are looking for. And I'm just not sure of what those roles could be. So I guess the biggest pointer is to think about what will work best for you based on what you want to find and the tips above. Helpful?

PS: bonus points to you if you know what song I was listening to on my way into work based on the title of this post.